Welcome, Don Khouri! Don is a PhD in Human and Organization Systems who works with leaders and individual contributors to build their presence, improve communication, and be more productive. It’s this last area where we’ve asked Don to join us and talk about his book, When to Say YES, to help our listeners learn more about being productive, especially in the workplace.
Don held a number of roles in the corporate world, mostly at Fidelity Investments, and for the last 12 years he’s been coaching leaders around productivity and leadership skills.
Don’s definition of productivity is “to be laser focused on your goals, making progress on your goals, and that feeling that comes along with it.” Not to be confused with being busy or overwhelmed.
We asked how to differentiate the little things that need to be done vs productivity. As knowledge workers, the requests for our time exceeds the time we have. We need to know when to say yes or no, and if we can decide up front what to say no to, our plate can be more manageable.
A lot of companies, especially big companies, request a lot of people’s time for meetings. People say yes too often, according to Don’s research, and don’t like to say no, so they waste time in meetings. If the meeting’s agenda isn’t clearly defined with action items, and if you’re being invited as an FYI, do you have to be there?
Don’s methodology is research-based from conversations with c-level executives around how to evaluate requests for their time. He recommends asking 4 questions before saying yes to something. They are:
Does this align with my roadmap? (you need to have one of those...see Real Job Talk [episode 27 on setting career/work goals](-https://realjobtalk.com/27-setting-career-and-work-related-goals) and episode 54 with L’areal Lipkins.)
Who is asking? (boss, customer….) Be clear on the relationship hierarchy.
Is it a quality request? Has it been thought through and do you need to be there?
There are times when you have to decide to support others on their roadmap so they’ll support you on yours. Maybe you get time back by cutting the amount of time (25 mins vs 30) or having someone else go? Before you go, make sure the agenda is clear and the time will be spent well.
A nice way to say no is “not now” if the request doesn’t align with your goals right now.
Don says that in a smaller company, it’s important to focus on the essentials and the company roadmap.
We asked Don how a jobseeker can uncover if a company is productive in the interview process. He said to ask, “How do you know if someone is productive?” We chimed in to ask if the interview process is productive or drawn out. We also brainstormed to ask the hows around a job, and how many meetings people in the same role have each day.
Calendars. They manage us. How do you manage more efficiently? Don’s a fan of time blocking and using color coding to see where you’re spending your time. He has “client time”, “travel time”, “speaking time”, and “catch up”.
“Eliminate your free time” says Don. WHAT??? What he means is to block your personal time just like you do your work time. “There is no personal time. There is no professional time. There’s just living.”- According to Richard Branson, there is no difference and we should plan our rest and our work.
We have to know when to say no to preserve ourselves. And, when we work for others, it can be tough. To help with transparency, you can ask your boss to help you prioritize and make time to work on a new task. The word priority used to be single, meaning to do one thing at a time.
How do you set yourself up for success while saying no? There’s a planning fallacy: We think we can get more done than we can do, and we usually underestimate our time. When feeling like you’re not sure how much time it will take, ask someone else to look at it.
The best performing teams have guiding principles to hold each other accountable to getting the work done. You can go to the stakeholder and ask them for help in getting productivity back. Praise publicly, critique privately.
Don shares his favorite productivity tools:
Action Tracking: Trello
The thing to keep in mind is that tools like email and Slack can ruin productivity. You sometimes need to turn them off to focus. Don recommends turning off all notifications.
Don's book, When to Say YES: The 5 steps to protect your time: https://donkhouri.com/book/